Mount Merapi volcano eruption leaves at least 23 dead in Indonesia

Hot ash thrown 800 metres into the air in second eruption on Monday

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At least 23 people are thought to have been killed after Indonesia's Mount Merapi volcano erupted twice in two days.

Eleven people were initially confirmed dead after the initial eruption on Sunday as 50 climbers were rescued.

Rescuers said on Tuesday that more bodies had been found on the volcano's hazardous slopes.

Search operations were stopped on Monday when the volcano erupted again, throwing up a tower of ash as high as 800 metres.

Indonesia's Mount Merapi spews column of ash in latest eruption

Indonesia's Mount Merapi spews column of ash in latest eruption

The latest bodies were found just metres away from the eruption site, said West Sumatra province's deputy police chief Edi Mardianto.

The bodies of five climbers were recovered while 18 are presumed dead because they were so close to the eruption of hot gases and ash.

“The rest we want to evacuate are 18 and we expect they are no longer alive. The team will evacuate and take them to the hospital tomorrow or today to be identified,” Mr Mardianto said on Tuesday.

The rescuers are contending with bad weather and terrain constraints, as the scouring wind brings heat from the eruptions.

Mount Merapi was at the third highest of four alert levels since 2011, a level indicating above-normal volcanic activity, prohibiting climbers and villagers from getting within 3km of the peak, Indonesia's Centre for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation said.

Sunday's eruption blanketed villages and towns with tonnes of volcanic debris that blocked sunlight. People were advised to wear masks and sunglasses to protect themselves from the ash.

About 1,400 people live on Merapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, with the nearest villages about 5km from the peak.

Merapi has been active since a January eruption that caused no casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

Updated: December 05, 2023, 5:52 AM